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Playing God Seed

Playing God Seed

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Playing God Seed
    Book Description:

    John R. Elliott Jr. studies the modern context of this important medieval genre.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5994-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xi)
    (pp. xii-2)
  5. 1 Mysteries Suppressed
    (pp. 3-24)

    The English mystery plays during the Middle Ages were among the most ambitious dramas the world has ever known. Seldom has so much energy been poured into a regularly recurring dramatic event. Annually in cities throughout England plays depicting the history of the world, as told in the scriptures and medieval legend, were enacted in performances that sometimes lasted as long as eleven days. (In medieval France,misteresoccasionally took as many as twenty-five or even forty days to perform.) The earliest references to such dramas are found in the mid-fourteenth century, and they continued to be regularly performed for...

  6. 2 Oberammergau and the Victorians
    (pp. 25-41)

    The one Biblical drama which Englishmen did approve of was the Oberammergau Passion Play. Some insisted that it was the exception that proved the rule: only in the remote mountain valleys of Bavaria, insulated from the decadence of modern life and untainted by theatricality or commercialism, could such a performance be allowed. For others, however, it was the exception that proved the possibility of further exceptions: if Bavarian peasants could stage the sacred drama without offence, why could English actors not do the same? Both sides agreed that in Oberammergau a unique formula had been found that overcame all the...

  7. Mysteries Revived
    (pp. 42-70)

    Despite the controversy that surrounded religious drama at the turn of the century, the first modern performance of a medieval religious play in England passed almost unnoticed by the censors. In 1901 in the courtyard of the Charterhouse in London William Poel staged the early Tudor morality playEverymanfor the Elizabethan Stage Society. The production was to make theatrical history. For many years before, Poel had been the leading advocate of open-stage drama in England, performing Shakespeare in Elizabethan fashion, without footlights, curtains, or intervals. His production of the First QuartoHamletin 1887 was already a legend., Yet...

  8. 4 The York Festival
    (pp. 71-100)

    York in 1951 was, to the eye of the visitor, much the same city that it had been in the fifteenth century. Unlike Wakefield, Coventry, and other English towns that had once possessed mystery cycles, York had escaped the worst ravages of industrialism, city planning, and German bombers. One could still walk nearly the whole circumference of its ancient city walls and see the spires of its thirty medieval churches, rising above the narrow, crooked streets through which had passed, more than four hundred years before, the gaily-coloured wagons of the Corpus Christi procession. Looming over all were the mammoth...

  9. 5 The Cycle Complete
    (pp. 101-125)

    In the years that followed 1951, the York Festival became the best-known venue for mystery play productions in England. But other productions soon took place, many of them quite different in style and spirit from the York model. Over the next two decades all four of the other extant cycles were attempted on the stage, at least in partial versions, until by the end of the 1960s the mystery plays could be said to have come full circle. Beginning as local antiquarian ventures, acted largely by amateurs in an atmosphere of ‘church drama’ the plays soon made their way into...

  10. 6 Mystery Plays for Modern Audiences
    (pp. 126-144)

    All of the performances of the mystery plays described so far have reflected, consciously or unconsciously, the value which their producers felt the plays held for modern audiences. With the changes in religious beliefs and literary taste which have taken place in our century, it is not surprising that most current productions of medieval plays look little like those of twenty or thirty years ago, even though the same play-texts are involved. The same, of course, may be said of Shakespeare, and for the same reasons.

    T.S. Eliot noted over forty years ago that the renewed interest in medieval drama...

  11. Chronology of Principal Productions
    (pp. 145-148)
  12. Cast Lists
    (pp. 149-156)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 157-158)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 159-178)
  15. Index
    (pp. 179-186)